The Kentucky Wildcats were outlasted by the Clemson Tigers in the 2009 Music City Bowl on a cold, windy Sunday night in Nashville. Clemson's C.J. Spiller accumulated 172 total yards and added a rushing TD to lead the 9-5 Tigers to their first bowl win since 2005. Kentucky (7-6) fell just short of notching their fourth straight bowl victory.
Spiller was the ACC's Player of the Year, and finished his tenure at Clemson ranked first in career touchdowns (51). He rushed 15 times for 68 yards, and gained 57 yards on three pass receptions. The rest of his yards came from kick returns.
While Kentucky's defense kept the speedy Spiller somewhat in check, its offense was stagnant. After a beautiful opening drive capped by a 17-yard TD pass from Morgan Newton to Chris Matthews, UK would gain only 216 yards the rest of the game. Newton (13-23 passing, 98 yards, 1 TD) averaged more yards per rush (3.7) than Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb, who both averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Newton (10 carries, 37 yards) averaged 3.7. See the full boxscore for the rest of the game stats.
Brooks passing torch to Phillips in 2010? (AP)
Spiller earned game MVP honors, and became the first player to amass over 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in one season in ACC history. He also leaves his college career as the NCAA's all-time leader in kickoff returns for TDs, with seven.
The game was bitter
sweetbitter as well, as head coach Rich Brooks announced he was "80 percent sure" he would not be returning next season. The 68-year old will unveil his final decision in "three to four days." Joker Phillips, the current Offensive Coordinator, has already been named Brooks' successor.
Chris Low of ESPN wrote a great article recapping what could be the last stop in Coach Brooks' illustrious career.
Broooks will be missed (AP)
Pawpaw led the Cats to the post-season four straight years for the first time in school history, winning at least seven games in each year, a streak unmatched in the past 97 years. That's since 1909. UK also owns the second-longest non-conference winning streak in the nation (18 in a row). In 2009, Kentucky won three SEC games on the road for the first time in 32 years, defeated Auburn for the first time in 43 years, won at Georgia for the first time in 32 years, and shut out an opponent (Miami University) for the first time in 13 years. In '08, the Blue-and-White's triumph over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl marked the third-straight year for a Wildcat post-season win, the first time in school history that had been accomplished. Only 11 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision had won bowl games in each of those three years, putting UK in the same company as Texas, LSU, and Southern Cal, among others.
Brooks was also named the 2009 SEC Coach of the Year by CollegeFootballNews.com and is a nominee for the 2009 Lexington Sports Examiner Sportsman of the Year to boot. The playing field at Oregon University is named after Pawpaw for all he did there. Perhaps it's time for UK brass to consider a similar tribute.